Friendship is hard. As I have realised lately, harder than I’d ever thought it could be. It is complicated. It is confusing. It is weird.
And it isn’t like the movies, or the books.
You don’t have a single best friend for your entire life. You don’t have only one group of people with whom you do everything. Your social life does not necessarily revolve around school. Not all your friendships will be entirely healthy.
You won’t find your Ron and Hermione at age eleven and never need to find other friends.
You won’t bump into your Sam and Patrick by chance at a football game when you’re fifteen and find yourself with a perfect circle of wallflowers.
You won’t have a Sam and Merry and Pippin who you grew up with and have never and will never grow apart from.
You won’t just find yourself living opposite your Monica and Phoebe after your life falls apart and have them piece it back together.
Your Janis and Damien won’t drop from the sky when you find yourself lost and show you how to have fun and be ‘normal’.
You won’t find a Timon and Pumba who suddenly become your entire life and stop you from ever needing anybody else.
Friendship is not flat. Friendship is not a hierarchy. Friendship is not exclusive. Friendship does not involve one or two best friends who you won’t ever fall out of touch with, and some close friends, and then some good friends, and then some plain old friends. Friendship doesn’t follow a mould, and people don’t have the same journeys with all their friends.
I have friends with whom I gossip and giggle and lie on the floor laughing with, and friends with whom I have long, intelligent discussions about life.
I have friends who I love to cook for and go on long walks with, and friends who would favour ordering pizza and eating ice cream and watching Rom Coms ten times out of ten.
I have friends who I stay up until three talking about boys with, squashed three onto a double bed, and friends who I see for lunch and long chats about politics.
I have friends who I go on treasure hunts around my village and our houses with, and friends who I study and share exam notes with.
I have friends who can spend hours playing Irish Snap together and never grow bored, and I have friends who hate playing card games and always favour chatting.
I have friends who I could confide my deepest fears and hopes to, and friends who I could talk to for hours about nothing in particular.
But they are all close friends. They are all different, and they most certainly do not all get along, but they are all wonderful and they are all my friends. I do not have, and do not wish to have, a single group of friends who have to fit all the boxes. People are much too different and unique for that to ever happen. People are complex, and so are the relationships they have with one another.
We all have this idea, this impression – from books and movies and TV – that we can only ever have one group of friends, one group of people that we spend time with.
But, in my experience at least, that really is not the case. I have school friends and church friends and show friends and dance friends and sailing friends and family friends and online friends and work friends and friends from where-ever, and many of these do not know each other, or do not like each other, and that is okay. And all of these people have a similar story to me – of different groups of friends, equally close, from different places in their life and different parts of their world.
But people have this idea of ‘best friends’ – this part of our culture that says you have to have just a couple of friends who you’re incredibly close to, and the group of you all get along and go out all the time and are basically siblings and you’re always welcome in each others homes, and your best friends are their best friends, and there is no variation in your friendships.
But why can’t we have friends from different places? Just because I am equally and differently close to someone else, does that mean my friendship with you means less? Just because you are a friend I would go to a party with and they a friend I would go for coffee with, are we less close? Just because I know you from dance class and them from youth group, is our relationship less meaningful? Because I see you less is our friendship less strong? Because we like different music is our bond less loving?
No! Not even slightly!
I like having friends to go for shopping and Starbucks with, and I like having friends to go for long country walks topped with homemade lasagna with! I like having friends I can waste hours doing nothing except watching telly with, and I like having friends who I always create stupid inventions out of pipes with! I like having friends I can dress up to go out with, and I like having friends I can wear elasticated waistbands and bare faces with! And I, for one, am fed up of best friend culture, of one-friendship-group culture, and of similar-friends culture!
Just because a person is different to you, it doesn’t mean they can’t be one of your closest friends. Just because you don’t see a person often, it doesn’t mean you can’t understand each other better than anyone.
And just because you sit with a person everyday for lunch, it doesn’t mean they have to be the centre of your social life.
Friendship is not flat. It is not simple. It is not easy to understand, or easy to navigate.
Friendship is wonderfully three-dimensional, it is beautifully variable, and it is gorgeously complex.
It is something we need to stop trying to put in boxes, and something we desperately need to stop measuring our worth by. Not having a single ‘best friend’ is not something to be ashamed of, and having a wide circle of people to spend time with does not make you less sincere. Loving different people for different reasons and having different relationships with them all is not a bad thing – it is a wonderful thing, that gives life dimension and gives us things to do.
So don’t feel bad for not having a ‘best-friend’ worthy of a movie, or for having lots of people you consider best friends. Don’t feel bad at your relationships not being the kind that would make a TV show. Don’t feel bad that no one would want to read about you and your friends.
Don’t feel bad for having complicated and numerous friendships and a social life that is entirely unique to you. Don’t feel bad for the people from school for not being your only friends, and don’t feel bad for having friendships beyond those that people see.
Friendship is not flat. It is often, but not necessarily, wide, and it also has depth, and has height. It is rocky and mountainous and complicated and dangerous, and your friendships are ones that no one other than you ever has to be able to traverse.
Your friendships are your friendships – and they do not have to fit a mould.
As always, with love,